As a counselor for men, people ask why I do the work that I do. For me, it’s personal, because I’m a guy and I have dealt with a lot of the things that guys have dealt with.
Therapy is still stigmatized for many men, and this stigma prevents guys from getting the help that they might really benefit from. Although I think it’s changing a bit now, especially with younger guys who are more willing to seek out therapy, a lot of men still hide in the shadows when to comes to seeking out help of any kind, let alone counseling or therapy. They would prefer to “do it themselves,” and find the solutions that they need – or think that they need – rather than asking for help from a trained, unbiased professional like myself. Men in counseling can benefit from support of a different kind, not just the limited opinions of biased friends and family.
I think especially now there are there are a lot stronger forces at play that challenge men than have in the past: demands of work, challenges of new marriages, difficulties in parenting children in a more complex world, and general lack of stability across the board. I see a lot more unhappiness in people in modern living, especially because of those traditional roles that have been challenged, compromised or subverted. Because life is a lot more complex, a lot of people don’t have the skills or resources that they need to cope, or even thrive, in this ever-changing world, so they navigate through it with the limited skills and resources that they have, and that they know. Unfortunately, many don’t work, are outdated, or are tools that our parents used that are just as equally unhelpful to our own lives.
As far as relationships go, many men don’t really learn the right skills, be it communication skills, conflict resolution, or ways to treat a partner, and these deficiencies end up causing relationship or marriage problems along the way. Part of what a relationship counseling for men helps with is to build these skills, tools, and resources to be able to succeed or improve difficult relationships. Sometimes, it’s also unlearning certain problematic or unhelpful behaviors that contribute to overall relationship or marital strain.
For example, a lot of guys have never had “relationship training,” be it how to talk with a woman, how to empathize, how to have a healthy sexual relationship, how to deal effectively with conflict, and how to be a good mate or relationship partner overall. So, what happens is, relationships fail with the lack of these skill sets, and are replaced with maladaptive or dysfunctional ones. I think a lot more is demanded upon of men in this modern age, like romance, emotional availability and intelligence, and “soft” skills that typically women brought to relationships.
In addition to these demands, technology has become a profound disruptor in a short amount of time and, in my opinion, has actually eroded personal relationships and the ability to connect with live people, not devices. It becomes harder and harder to relate to people, let alone enhance an intimate relationship, so I think people aren’t used to what it means to have full contact relationships with others, be it intimate or not. I think this contributes to our overall sense of isolation, loneliness, and depression, and then we choose out the same maladaptive coping skills or hiding places that we’ve known to protect us further, isolating ourselves even more.
What we work with guys to do to improve the relationship is to support what they are doing, and work with them to consider other options that they haven’t yet learned. A lot of the time we learn these maladaptive or dysfunctional patterns growing up from our families of origin, so we work with guys to take honest and direct looks at those behaviors, see what’s not working, and through better awareness and insight, evolve or adopt those things so that they create more relationship success for themselves. Through experiential learning and awareness – and often times helping guys get out of their heads – they can tap into deeper information and understanding that can change them in very profound ways.
Men also deal with self-esteem issues, which can affect their lives in different ways. Usually if we don’t like who we are, can’t support ourselves, or are actually at war with ourselves, it makes it difficult if not impossible to experience happiness and joy and develop the kinds of relationships things that we want in our lives. If we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love others, and we end up undermining or sabotaging relationships often as a result. I work with a lot of guys who have a strong negative self-critic, which is constantly reminding the m of their inadequacy, failure and worthlessness. If this critic has control, it is few areas of life that aren’t negatively affected, including work, marriage, parenting, friendships, mental health, and physical health.
We don’t just help men have better relationships, but we help them live more fulfilling lives, in their work, in their friendships, in their relationships with their kids, and in their skin. We try to create a safe space conducive to men who want to take a leap of faith, and explore aspects of themselves that are blocked, stuck, problematic or just plain not working for them, and help them come up with the solutions that they want (although not always in the way that they want!). Contact us today at 602.309.0568 for more information about we can help you, or your loved one.